Bear, a one-year-old chow mix, was surrendered to the Animal Rescue League of Dedham in early spring. The reason of surrender: too many dogs in the yard. Bear spent most of his life in a fenced in yard, lunging at passersby and fighting with his brothers. His face was covered with scars.
During the first few weeks of his stay in the shelter, Bear laid down in the kennel far away from all people. He would become animated when another dog walked by his kennel, but then he would retreat back to his "safe" spot.
The staff spent a lot of time with Bear. They would sit in his kennel to help him get comfortable with people around him. Bear liked cheese and pieces of hot dogs, but would eat the food only when we people were out of sight.
Leashing Bear was a challenge. He would stay away staff, avoid eye contact, and begin to shake. Most of the time his paws would leave sweaty prints on the floor. Once on leash, he would become still, lower his head, and tuck his tail in. During his medical evaluation, Bear shut down and stood still. He had the same reaction during brushing and bathing.
A month went by. Bear started approaching the kennel door, curious to see the newcomers. One day we even got a faint tail wag. All of his friendly behaviors were accompanied by lots of praise and his favorite treats.
During playgroups, Bear would stand or lay still, watching the dogs interact. After a few playgroups, he became more comfortable around the other dogs, especially small ones. He would sniff them and then go back to his spot.
Loud noises and unexpected motion were a big scare for Bear. Often on his walks, Bear would bolt and try to flee.
Cheryl, one of our most dedicated foster parents, took Bear home to give him some time away from the shelter. She owns two friendly Portuguese Waterdogs. Bear fell in love with the dogs and enjoyed playing with them in the house. When outside, he had to be confined to a big playpen at first, because he kept trying to escape out of the yard. He would not eliminate in the playpen for quite some time. When he was left in the crate, he would move it through the house, ignoring the treats left for him inside the crate.
Occasionally, Cheryl brought Bear back to the kennel. We tried keeping him in the office as long as possible to get him comfortable with people approaching him. Over time, Bear would lie down and fall asleep at our feet. Although the crate was another challenge for Bear, soon it became a place where he felt safe.
In October, Cheryl and her husband decided to adopt Bear. He is now part of their family. He enjoys daily long walks by his owner's side. He plays in the yard with his dog friends and no longer tries to escape. He spends his nights in the crate with no worries. His shiny fur grew over the scars. He is enrolled in the good manners class at the Animal Rescue League of Boston. He learned to sit and down on cue. From time to time Bear is challenged by a new place or a new noise, but recovers quickly and moves on.
No more sweaty paws!
Bear's rehabilitation took months, lots of patience and dedication from the shelter staff as well as his new owners, but look at the happy smile on Bear's face.
- Carol Ahearn, Behavior Counselor at the Center for Shelter Dogs